A federal judge ruled Friday that a ban on same-sex marriage in Michigan violates the U.S. Constitution and therefore must be quashed. The ruling was seen by some as the latest example of "a single federal judge deciding that he knows better than the people" of a state.
In a 31-page ruling, Judge Bernard A. Friedman of Federal District Court stated, "The Court finds that the [ban] impermissibly discriminates against same-sex couples in violation of the Equal Protection Clause because the provision does not advance any conceivable legitimate state interest."
One couple has already married following the court ruling. Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 52, of Lansing received their marriage license Saturday morning, according to USA Today.
Michigan's 2004 constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and woman, which was approved by 59 percent of voters, was challenged by Detroit suburb lesbian couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who wanted to jointly adopt each other's children but could not.
The judge said that the religious views of some people cannot come in the way of equal protection. "Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage," Friedman said. "Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law."
Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said the court's decision reflects "an all-out assault on marriage, issuing rulings to redefine this foundational institution in violation of US Supreme Court precedent and the rule of law."
"This latest example in Michigan gives us the spectacle of a single federal judge deciding that he knows better than the people of Michigan who voted overwhelmingly to preserve marriage, and has imposed his will in defiance of the sovereign right of the State of Michigan to define marriage and in violation of U.S. Supreme Court rulings," Brown said in a statement.
Friday's order echoes recent rulings issued in Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Utah. State amendments and laws banning gay marriage have been struck down in court since the U.S. Supreme Court squashed a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last June.
Brown argued that Friday's ruling is "illegitimate." Such decisions "will continue to happen until the U.S. Supreme Court steps in to put a stop to it," he said.
The Supreme Court ruled less than a year ago that the definition of marriage has historically been up to the states to decide, and "yet activist federal judges are twisting that ruling to redefine marriage," Brown added.
The state's attorney general, Bill Schuette, is seeking an emergency order to stay the ruling, according to Reuters.
"In 2004, the citizens of Michigan recognized that diversity in parenting is best for kids and families because moms and dads are not interchangeable," Schuette was quoted as saying. "Michigan voters enshrined that decision in our state constitution, and their will should stand and be respected."
Brown commended Schuette for announcing the decision to appeal. "We urge the higher courts to immediately halt this decision so that they may consider the issues in a deliberate fashion. If necessary, we urge the U.S. Supreme Court to itself issue a stay on the decision, as they did in Utah."